“I’ve been going out on the water for years, and I’ve never needed a lifejacket!”
That’s fine – I’ve been living in the world for years, and I’ve never needed a police officer. I’ve had a house for years, and I’ve never needed a plumber… See where this is going?
No one ever needs something that they see as “non-essential” – until they do. You pay your taxes in case you need the help of the emergency services. You keep a maintenance fund for your property in case you ever need to call in a professional to fix something.
And you wear a life vest in case you end up in the water, in trouble, and need it to save your life.
“We’ve got lifejackets on the boat”
And you’ve got seatbelts in your car, but you still put them on as soon as you get in. In an emergency, you’re not going to have the opportunity to get to the life vests, never mind get them on.
If someone falls into the water, valuable seconds are going to be lost if those still on board have to get to the lifejackets and get them on before they can attempt rescue – someone who is already in the water in an emergency situation is going to struggle to get a lifejacket on for themselves.
Those seconds of delay could be the difference between an accident on the water, and a fatality.
“We’re not that far from shore”
90% of all drownings take place on inshore bodies of water, not the open sea. You can drown even in relatively shallow water, especially if you’re struggling to move in waterlogged clothing.
Also, land always seems closer than it is. In a crisis, you probably aren’t going to make it to shore before you get into difficulties.
“I’m a very strong swimmer”
In optimal conditions – warm, calm water. When you’re wearing appropriate clothing – waterproof swim wear that allows for full freedom of movement. When you were expecting to go swimming, and were therefore prepared to enter the water. In an indoor pool, or in perfect weather.
When you fall into cold water, with currents, wearing outdoor clothing, you’re taken by surprise, and your ability to cope is drastically reduced. It is a lot harder to swim in open water than in a pool, especially if you weren’t expecting to go swimming in the first place.
Outdoor clothing rapidly becomes waterlogged, weighing you down, and making it next to impossible to move freely.
In cold water, hypothermia is a very real risk factor – and it doesn’t take long for it to set in.
“Lifejackets are uncomfortable and restrictive”
If you make sure to buy the right size and style of lifejacket, it shouldn’t be too uncomfortable or restrictive – yes, it should fit snugly, but not too tight.
Even if you intend to purchase your life vest online, it’s a good idea to visit physical stores, and try on a selection of jackets, as well as asking advice about the best lifejacket for your particular situation – boating on a lake will call for a different kind of lifejacket than you would wear for white-water rafting, for example.